Barn Swallows in UK, Yorkshire: See attached photos of this year’s 1st brood, who have fledged and have been out of the nest for about 4 weeks now.
To be honest the weather has been so poor in northern UK this year this is one of the first fine days that I have had the opportunity, and been home, to photograph them for you. That damned Jet stream over the North Atlantic has moved south over central UK, which means we have had a summer of unseasonable gales and rain. Although there is an upside for me when flying East bound over the Atlantic, we get home earlier, and do not burn so much fuel (the accountants love it !).
All the best Mac
Yorkshire, UK: Quick up date as I have been on my travels but have come back to find that our Swallows have produced their 2nd clutch which have fledged last week. Mr M took this photo from her study of one of the young who came to look at her. Unfortunately it is through the glass hence reflection.
Yorkshire, UK: These photos were all taken yesterday and show the two additional nest that our returnees made this year in another barn, as well as original set. Mrs Mac accidentally left the door open and when we got back from a trip, we had these, so barn door will have to stay open for the rest of the summer!
Yorkshire, UK: Have been away so have only just got around to posting these photos of this seasons travelers sat on the wires waiting to leave. These were taken August 27/8 just as I was leaving on a trip and upon my return 3/9 there are only 10 left, these being the late fledged birds and parents. Seems very quiet around here with the brood diminished. I suspect that the last will go in the next week, on or before 16/9 their normal date. We had a reasonable count on the 27/8 with over 60 birds from our assorted barns both ours and next door so that’s quite a number given the late spring we had. Please look after, and return to sender in the Spring. Regards Mac
Normanton on Soar Leicestershire UK: I thought that you might like to see the attached images of our sunbathing swallows taken this morning!
With digital photography and a long lens I have been able to witness behaviour that I have not seen before.
The birds appear to be dead but believe me they were just relaxing and enjoying the warmth and sunshine as a part of their preparation for the long journey to come!
Regards Andrew Roberts
|Normanton on Soar Leicestershire UK: Back at the end of April only three pairs of our barn swallows arrived back at the farm. This was the lowest figure we had ever seen and I guess it reflected the torrid time these little birds have had over the last few years. The wet summer of 2012 must have really taken its toll.
This week is also play time for the youngest birds which are still being fed by their parents but are spending their days chasing each around the farm developing the skills they will need over the coming months.
27 March 2013 Yorkshire,UK: We are having a very rough spring. When I posted last photos that was the start of a weekend of snow. Could not even get out of house, and had to hire JCB to dig us out on Monday, but could not get to work so out of sinque on trips. Please see photos after storm, no snow in fields but every road , wall, or dip filled with snow to several meters. 4X4 no good as you can see as snow just too deep (should have bought Toyota or Unimog / G Wagon maybe !!) . Would not expect to see any Swallows until late April as weather pattern set for at least next 2 weeks. Not in European Barn Swallow country now for next trips so cannot update on their flight north in person, but if I hear anything will post up date.
Regards Nanook of the North (A Very Cold Mac)
Yorkshire, UK: Please see attached photos of the first two males who have returned today to our barn. They must have arrived this afternoon as not around this morning. They show what I know consider customary “travel paint” on their White breasts i.e. Saharan Red dust which is the subject of much cleaning this evening. Best wishes a very Happy Mr Mac
Barn Swallows nest in new outbuilding in Stareton, Warwickshire, UK
By Don McGillivray
There is a population of about 20 Barn Swallows that live in my neighbors barns, and in an outbuilding I erected this year. 2 pairs of Barn Swallows moved in and built nests before I could put the doors on. I did eventually get the doors on but when I went to close them the swallows went crazy – I have left the doors open all spring and summer!
I keep looking at the nests (from a safe distance) but have not seen any chicks. However the birds have sat on the nests, and have been flying in and out continuously, so I guess there must be chicks.
I’m watching the birds each day to see if there is any sign of them leaving, but they are still flying around here, as normal. There are still plenty of insects. The Barn Swallows have been such a pleasure to have around, and so tolerant of me. They fly within feet of me – They obviously realize I am no threat.
Barn Swallows live in the outbuilding next to the house and gateway in the hedge shows a meadow next door to me, where the swallows mostly feed.
Barn Swallows in UK | South West England
A bit of googling led me to stumble on to your very interesting website. The reason for the googling is that we have not had the smoothest of times with “our” swallows this year and I was keen to try to understand a bit more about them.
I’m a bit hazy about some of the fine detail and chronology as we haven’t been keeping records and the old memory ain’t what it used to be! But notwithstanding that, let me give you some background information. Most weekends I stay with friends on farmland in the far south-west of England, more specifically in south-east Cornwall. For the past 5 years or so what we assume to be the same pair of barn swallows have nested and successfully produced broods at my friends’ house. They built their original nest under the eaves of a seldom-used south facing door to the house. They subsequently built another which didn’t last too long before it fell down, thankfully not at a critical time in terms of rearing young. They then went back to their original nest, which they have been using ever since.
That’s the background and everything has seemingly been relatively plain sailing – at least it has until this year. Mr & Mrs Swallow arrived back from their hemisphere-crossing travels in mid-April, as usual. Their return has become much welcomed by us since a) it’s obviously nice to know that they’ve survived both of their remarkable journeys since we last saw them (and the period in between) and b) it’s a timeline marker-post for us which heralds the return of spring and the prospect of summer, which is always uplifting in itself. Shortly after their return they made a start on their first brood. The chicks duly hatched, were being fed by both parents and all was well. At least it was up until Friday 30th May when the chicks were maybe about a week old (we weren’t entirely sure when they hatched and had always, up until that point, felt it would have been an inappropriate intrusion to look into the nest during the spring/summer). Anyway, on that Friday I arrived at my friends’ house after work about 7pm to house-sit for them as they’d left early that morning for a few days away. They have a bird-box on the other side of the house with a camera in which, fortunately for us in 2014, was being occupied by a family of blue-tits. The first thing I did on arrival was check on the TV screen and was able to marvel at how much the 8 blue-tit chicks had grown in the five days since I’d last seen them.
Second port of call was to check the progress of the swallows. So I approached the relevant door from inside the house. There I looked down at the strategically placed mirror on the floor which points up through the window in the door directly to the nest, allowing the nest to be viewed from below without distracting nest occupants (or crouching and twisting one’s neck). Except that, on this occasion, when I looked into the mirror the nest was not there! NOT THERE! I said “On no!” about 20 times and with some trepidation looked down through the window to look at the large tray we keep under the nest to catch the worst of the droppings. The tray contained the fallen nest, which must have fallen at some point in the previous 12 hours. It looked to be essentially intact although a later inspection revealed that it had fractured in two under its centre. The fractured nest contained 3 of the chicks, another had partially been spilled to one side and a fifth had been thrown further loose by the fall. This was not the way I’d imagined finding out how many chicks were in the nest – normally we’ve had to wait until heads appear over the side and then trust we’ve seen them all at the same time. Another look at the chicks revealed that they were all still breathing. So I hastily made my way outside to have a closer look, muttering “oh no” several more times and for the first time wondered what on earth I was going to do. Something, yes, something – I was definitely going to do something. So I started thinking about what would be best to do and whilst I was mulling it over, grabbed my camera and took a few snaps of the fallen nest and hapless chicks. The one that was further from the nest was noticeably colder than the others – better not dawdle too long. Mr and Mrs S were sitting on the power line about 50 yards away, a position they often frequent when they’re just chilling out. They were silent and they were watching me, at least it felt as though that was what they were doing. I hadn’t seen them approach their nest site in the few minutes since I’d first said “oh no”, so I didn’t know if they’d been trying to feed their chicks on the ground or not. The fact they were just perched on the wire, rather than out catching food, suggested they had not. Anyway, the status quo was clearly unsustainable so I returned my attention to the practicalities of what I should do. I came to the conclusion that my best bet was to find a plastic plant pot, secure it in under the roof where the nest had been and then scoop the nest and chicks back in. I was fortunate to find in the greenhouse an appropriately-sized hanging basket and set about using that, rather than a plant pot. I looped its plastic handle behind the roof rafter and passed string through the drainage holes in the bottom of the basket and tied that to the rafter too. I then, very carefully, maneuvered all the chicks into the nest. Next I picked up the nest in both hands and, climbing backwards a few rungs up the ladder whilst concentrating very hard on my balance and the safety of the precious cargo in my hands (OK, that’s probably a bit over-dramatic!), successfully managed to reach into the hanging-basket and deposit the nest into its improvised cradle. The basket was secured at the same angle as the sloping roof, so I did my best to put the nest in it so that the top was level with the ground and not the lip of the basket. I put the ladder away, went inside and sat down in a good viewing chair and crossed my fingers.
Nothing much happened in the first 5 minutes, so I made a start on getting some food on the go (for me), not that I felt in the least bit like eating. It was, however, something to do. Every 5 minutes or so I’d have a look but there were still no visits from the parents, at least not when I was looking. After about 45 minutes I first saw a parent fly in under the roof. Looking in the mirror I observed that it was not confident enough to land on the basket, which out of necessity I hadn’t been able to tie exactly where the nest had been before it fell. Perhaps the perceived lack of confidence was just confusion about where the nest was in relation to where it was expected to be. However, after several more recces without landing, one adult (Mum I think) took the plunge and landed on the basket and (I also think) fed a chick. Then it flew off and quickly returned (or perhaps it was the other parent) with some more food. And again. And again. The “oh no”s of earlier were now replaced with several emphatic “yes” s and the odd triumphant punch of the air, to no-one but myself. Bit silly really but, as an unskilled, UN-knowledgeable and confident DIYer, I was pleased with myself, and I hope you can understand why. I seem to remember I even allowed myself a celebratory drink to go with the food I now felt an appetite for! There were no further problems with brood 1 after that – I was always a bit concerned that something would go wrong with the basket or that I might have handled the chicks too roughly, even though I was all but certain that I hadn’t. All 5 chicks duly fledged successfully (coinciding with me being elsewhere, so I missed it) and Mr & Mrs fairly shortly afterwards made a start on brood no. 2, with the nest still in the hanging basket.
At first, all seemed normal with brood 2, an unknown-to-us number of eggs hatched around 10th July and the chicks were clearly being fed by both parents. They were apparently being assisted in this by some of the juveniles from the first brood, which was not something we’d particularly noticed in previous years. However, despite everything being OK in the first few days of the chicks’ lives, on 18th July to our consternation we found four dead chicks in the tray. I got the ladder out and checked the nest but it was empty. It had been penetratingly hot that week (for England) and the roof to which the nest is attached faces south in direct sunlight. We can only assume that they died as a result of the heat and had been turfed out of the nest by the parents after they’d died. We do hope it was nothing more sinister than that.
Eight days after our sad discovery of the fate of brood 2, we felt that the nature of the swallow-chatter on the roof TV aerial was very “spring-like”. I don’t think we were imagining that. Mrs S was also spending a fair bit of time in the nest, so when she was absent and I took a quick peek into the nest. There was an egg! The following day there was another! That was 10 days ago. I’ve not had a chance to view the unoccupied nest since then but I imagine there are 3 or 4 eggs in there which would be due to hatch in about another week. Assuming there are no hiccups this time round then the chicks will be fledgling at the end of August / beginning of September. I don’t think they’ve ever been so late before and it’s not going to give the brood 3 juveniles much time to prepare themselves for their marathon journey. Still, nothing we can do about that except hope. We’re also hoping that they get as far as having the chance of making the marathon journey, wherever that destination is, and that we don’t have a similar scenario to that which befell brood 2.
After they’ve all gone this autumn then we’ll have to decide whether to leave the hanging basket there or not. I think I’d be inclined to leave it where it is if brood 3 is successful but there’s plenty of time for me to change my mind several times before I have to decide!
So that’s the story in 2014 so far. Shock, triumph, disaster and hope (in that order.) And we’re not finished yet!
Best wishes, Andrew.